At this time of the year our thoughts turn to the Summer months ahead with holidays, picnics, impromtu lunches outside and all sorts of delights. Unfortunately, these events have to be very last minute as we never know what the weather will bring us, often from hour to hour. You might have a friend call round for coffee and before you know it, it's lunchtime and you feel compelled to extend an offer to share some further refreshments.
At times like this it is very handy to have something delicious that you can fall back on, something tasty but not something that may be rejected on dietary grounds. If you have some oat cakes or crackers, some crusty bread even and a few bits of salad an impressive snack can soon be conjured up if you have this cheese in your cupboard.
It is very easy to make and can be made and eaten fresh, as they do in its homeland, the Middle East. No need to shape just put it into a pretty bowl and top with a swirl of good olive oil and some black pepper. I like to make it to keep and I think you will to. Why not give it a try?
You will need:-
Two big tubs of good quality plain unsweetened yoghurt
A small amount of dried herbs of your choice
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
2-3 bay leaves
Good quality olive oil to cover
The first thing to do is to place a jelly bag or a straining cloth of muslin over a large bowl. Empty the yoghurt into the bag/cloth and hang up somewhere overnight to drain.
Pour around 3 cms/1 inch of olive oil into a large jar and carefully place the balls of cheese into the oil using one of your spoons. When you have a layer add more oil so that they don't stick together too much.
Add the coriander and bay leaves as you go. Make sure the last layer is covered with oil.
The cheese will keep for a long time - store it somewhere cool and dark - and you can lift out how many pieces you need for your meal and leave the rest covered in the jar.
When you have finished the jar you can use the oil which will be beautifully flavoured with the herbs, for cooking or salad dressings.
Since we took on the role with Trading Standards under their Primary Authority Partnership we have been fairly — or more accurately, unfairly — battered by artisans who are upset that we have to advise them of the Law and Regulations. ‘Who are you to tell me what to do’ being the general tone.
Before we invest more of our time in this process would you like to put forward your point of view? We have a meeting with Trading Standards next week and it would be useful to be able to give them some pointers for the future.
It would seem that most people want the Jam & Similar Products ( England ) 2003 to just go away. That is, if they knew about them in the first place. The simple quiz that we ran a few weeks ago generated a pass rate of just 30% with most not even having the most basic knowledge of the requirements of the Law. This doesn’t apply just to producers by the way, most of the individuals involved in the industry seem to have no understanding either.
So having no legislation for artisan production — which we have been told by some is just red tape anyway — means no protection for the consumer. Should it just be buyer beware?
How would you decide whether to put allergens on or not? How would you know what they are? If someone wants to buy marmalade or jams with horseradish, carrot cake, vinegar, milk, laver, anything-you-like, then should it be possible for that to be a thing?
Sugar, no-sugar, some sugar, sweeteners — but we don’t have to tell you how much, or what they are because there are no Regulations. What about durability, storage conditions, labelling requirements, weights and measures?
Let’s assume that this is what everyone wants, then how do we go about achieving it? Who is the ‘someone’ that needs to address it? How are you going to approach the powers that be to convince them that this is the way forward and ‘what everyone wants’?
You — someone — someone with the time to spare away from their business — someone you will need to pay — will probably need to organise you into a representative body, one that can have dialogues with Trading Standards, Environmental Health, Food Standards Agency, Food Information for Consumers, Health & Safety and above all Defra. A body to put forward your views and to be effective in making the artisan production in the United Kingdom the best that it can be. A body that can truly work for you and make significant progress on your behalf.
That’s who we think we are.
Our Industry Watch today concerns Sugar.
Villified and demonised as it is at the present time, ordinary sucrose has been in use since the 6th century and therefore cannot be at the forefront of the massive health issues we have had in the last forty years. It is vital as a food preservative, it is inert, is one of the only foodstuffs on sale with no ‘use by’ or ‘best before’ dating.
We could be self sufficient in sugar production in this island, sugar beet farmers quietly get on with growing their harvest to be refined into the bags of sugar on the shelf by brands like Whitworths and Silver Spoon. This doesn’t mean that Tate & Lyle’s cane sugar is significantly different — it is all sucrose — it just means it hasn’t travelled as far.
Preservers should learn the power of this natural plant-based preservative and ensure that any modifications that they make to time-honoured recipes because ‘people don’t want to eat sugar’ ensures that they are still preserving the ingredients. There is something in me which whispers away that if you take out so much sugar that the product must be refrigerated then you are no longer preserving.
Jams and Similar Products, as per their regulations, are intended for storage at ambient temperature — if those regulations are not adhered to then the product cannot be known as ‘Jam’ or any of the permitted alternatives in the Law.
Let us not lose these ancient skills of being able to control and preserve harvest at ambient temperature — they are more important than you may think.
Right. Very quickly I bring you tidings of great joy this beautiful Spring Day. (Not!)
We have recently received the very welcome news from our supplier that all of our prices are being reduced . . . I know!
So, of course, we are passing that straight onto you. This isn't just a few pence thing - many prices, the majority, have gone done by several £££££s per box. Hard to believe I know, but there we are, miracles do happen.
(Whilst checking all of the prices in our database we did find one or two historical mistakes which means that we have had to adjust to the correct, higher, price but in the main every glass item on the website has fallen in price.)
To add to the fun, all Jarcessorise products are on BOGOFF this weekend up to midnight on Sunday. Whatever you order from these products will be doubled up by us. It won't show on your order but you will receive the correct amount
I am not going to delay you further as I am certain you cannot wait to stampede over to the website to check the prices of you fav jars and bottles.
These prices are not a special offer - they are honest-to-goodness genuine support for our customers
Well, I could talk about snow, show you pictures of our snow, ask for pictures of you snow . . . but I prefer to think that this is just a blip and that Spring is on it's way.
We have Mother's Day coming up, quickly followed by Easter and before we know it the Summer fruits will be arriving, we will have balmy, sunny days and bluebirds will be over the white cliffs of Dover. May be.
So I have devised a Designer Pack for the Summer Frocks Collection which would make an ideal gift for a preserving Mother's Day gift - either buy one for your Mother or drop very precise hints if you would like it for yourself! See the video below to see what is included ( not the jars - they are special acting jars) The contents, details and price is here. Great price, easy to post, huge fun for a dedicated preserver.
We also have the popular Summer Frocks lids on special offer for the upcoming holidays so if this is a lid that you use regularly, now is the time to stock up.
Finally, if you are snowed in, it would be a very good opportunity to overhaul your stocks of jars ready for the coming season. Make sure your lids are still in good condition and that you have all of the equipment you need ready.
We still have lots of bargains and great prices on the website to take advantage of and you can be ahead of the game when the weather improves.
Keep warm and safe people
y Well, it's been a while and you are probably thinking that I have disappeared!
Sadly at the end of last year I was diagnosed with breast cancer and life went into a bit of a tailspin. As most of you who are regular customers know, we are a very small company - just me and Trev really, with help from my son Rob, so the pressure this has exerted has been immense.
Day to day orders have for the most part been fine, being monitored and processed between us but the development of offers, showcasing recipes and all of the other things that I do - largely unsung - behind the scenes have had to go onto the back burner for a while.
I underwent a surgery in November which highlighted further problems so this was followed by a mastectomy on 21 December - which made for an interesting Christmas. Histology following that op has found further problems so I have just entered the chemotherapy programme, with the first of 8 cycles being given last week. So far I feel fine, the problems have been minimal but I will have to see how we go. After chemo I am planned to have a course of radiotherapy and I have decided to have the second, preventative mastectomy at the end of it all for peace of mind. So, this is going to take a while, have ups and downs but we will endeavour to still do our best and may be think of new and innovative ways to take everything forward, because needs must. All good stuff.
The first of this is online courses. I can't be committed to my physical classes quite so much at the moment so we are recording the classes as an online format which you can access and join in with wherever you are, whenever it suits you. The first is How to Make Marmalade and you can find out just how easy it is for yourself. There are lots of hints and tips, quality advice and ways to vary the recipe to include different flavours. Once you have signed up to the course you can use it over and over again so is excellent value for money. There will be downloads and other information as time goes by to help build your skill and expertise.
I hope that you like the new things to come - and, of course, we will still be bringing you offers and bargains as they arise.
Well, you answered my question - thank you.
We have decided to ignore Black Friday and carry on what with what we do all of the time. Bring you great deals as a matter of course and show you interesting ideas.
First up this week is a perpetual Advent Calendar. We have boxed 24 small jars and gold lids with a pack of numbered labels and some Christmassy red and white baker's twine. The jars can be filled with small gifts of your choice to suit the age of the recipient and they don't need to be expensive.
Once emptied the jars can be stored to be used again next year, and the year after.
Watch my helpful video and then grab a pack before the end of the month.
Pack costs just £10.00 plus postage
contents not included
The Bumper Christmas Jarcessorise Pack has 50 elements from the festive jar decorations at just HALF PRICE. The contents are all current stock and will bring a festive look to your home made gifts. there are jar wraps, trims, ribbons, raffia, buttons, tags and jar lids.
We've even made some paperchains . . . .
Buy now while stocks last
Finally - a brilliant addition to our packaging range - the two bottle kraft box. Excellent value at just a £1.00, your home made gifts can look really smart or if you are a producer, these sit very well on a shelf or display stand. Particularly good as they have a flat top.
Hope you like our festive bargains and that they help you with your preparations
It's that time of year again. No not Halloween. Not Bonfire Night. Not Christmas . . . .
Black Friday. November 27th. The Day of Madness.
The thing is - as a company we need to join in. This has become A Thing. Not something you can ignore or avoid. Our problem is we give you the very best prices all the year around. You can believe it or not, there is very little room for us to reduce anything, or make outrageous offers. We can't offer free carriage, for instance, or we would be selling everything at a loss. Any cheaper things we could buy in specially would sap our integrity - we made the decision in the early days to only sell things we believed in, that we would use ourselves.
We are constantly undermined by our competitors, the market is flooded with cheap glass from China which isn't necessarily food grade glass. Of products that are just a gimmick, don't last, and of poor quality - but how are you supposed to be able to tell them apart? You can trust what we do every single day, how hard we work to maintain the standards, to not compromise on quality but always to bring you savings where we can, to offer what we can.
How then, do we cope with Black Friday? What can we offer you that will fit our criteria of only buying quality and selling at a fair price? I admit we are stumped.
Perhaps you can advise, tell us what you want to see us achieve, and we will do what we can.
The proviso is though, that we would prefer not to only do that on one day in the year.
Having said all of that, this week we have a new range of Italian bottles - Quattro Stagione. There is a set of four 150ml squat bottles, and also a 1200ml, 400ml and 1000ml. They are well priced, easy to fill, easy to empty and very smart with the embossed name on one side and a fruit design on the other. They have a continuous screw cap and are ideal for sauces etc and bottling/waterbathing.
It's a busy time of year but still time to get some presents or preserves made. Have fun!
I bring you a cautionary tale this week.
In the Summer of 2016 we were contacted by an individual who said he was calling on behalf of Upper Street Events - a company well known to us as we have exhibited with Country Living Fairs over the years.
This individual, Olivett Asare, said that Upper Street Events were starting a new initiative to make it cost effective for small businesses to exhibit abroad. They had cherry picked exhibitors from their database to take part in a new scheme which was by invitation only. They only wanted good quality British businesses with niche products. The first show was to be in Los Angeles in March 2017 and was called Source British.
( It transpired that Olivett was the Director of a company called Source British Direct Limited which has now been dissolved. )
The scheme was indeed, very attractive and we decided that it fitted our plans for the future so we signed the contract - a familiar contract that we had signed many times before with them for shows in this country.
The total cost for the show was going to be around £2000 including the shipment of our goods and stand to LA. The flight and hotel package was to be a further £2000 approximately, and then there were our ancillary costs of stand furniture, visas, food, etc etc. In all, a cost of approximately £5000.
Along the way the Department for International Trade became involved which gave us added confidence.
Prior to leaving for LA we were told that industry experts, buyers, and members of all branches of the Press had been invited and in excess of 3500 had registered to attend the show. We made our preparations accordingly.
On arrival at the show we met with the other exhibitors and we began the show build. Later in that day, the day before the show opened, we were called together for a 'pep' talk and advised to 'be ready' for the expected visitors - the 3500+ figure was reiterated.
The following day when the show opened there was not the tsunami of people as promised. In fact over the entire two days only 147 people came through the door and we had the distinct impression that most of those had wandered in by accident. The American admin assistant told us that there had never been that number registered - it was closer to 10% of that figure.
They must have known before we left the UK that the show was a flop.
Throughout the time afterwards we have never had a communication from Upper Street Events - and in fact, now, they are saying that the show was nothing to do with them, that Olivett Asare was operating from his own Limited Company. This is not true.
However, Trev and I decided to take them to Court to try to gain some redress as some of the companies that engaged with this farce have now gone out of business. We have just had the case heard - of course Upper Street Events did not engage at all and did not appear. Aha! I hear you say, then you won!
Not so. The Judge was very annoyed that they had not turned up as he said he would have spoken his mind to them. He had every sympathy with us and said we had been treated shabbily. He was very clear though that he could not find in our favour as there is one crucial clause amongst the many in the T&C's on their contract.
Clause 33. Status of Pre-Contractural Statements.
The Exhibitor acknowledges and agrees that it does not rely on any undertaking, promise, assurance, statement or warranty (whether in writing or not) of any person which relate to the subject matter of the Contract, other than that set out expressly in the Contract.
In short, this means that they can say or write anything they like to get you to sign the contract and unless it is written in the contract it means nothing.
In Business to Business there is no protection, no moral or honorable behaviour or protection from the Law. If you don't like the terms of the contract you need to negotiate terms to your liking. Good luck with that.
The Judge said that he admires small businesses in this country and he does believe the Law is stacked against us as mostly we cannot afford the legal muscle necessary to survive. He said it was brave to bring it to Court and personally speaking he would make the award if he could. He remarked that it was ridiculous of Upper Street Events to maintain that this was all nothing to do with them as it was clearly their contract.
The Judge also said that the only realistic scenario for bringing an action - any action - would be fraud.
Going forward, at what point does a liar become a fraudster?
So, I can now only write about this to warn others that no-one has your interest at heart except you. Be aware, educate yourself and believe that companies like Upper Street Events are long-standing and successful because they can exploit those smaller and weaker than themselves.
Sadly I am already contracted to go to the Country Living Spring Fair next year as we were the winners of the Editor's Choice Award. We bought extra space to augment our prize of a free stand and I very much doubt that we will be able to get released from that. This whole episode will colour how I feel about returning to the events in the future though - through no fault of Country Living Fairs or the magazine.
Congratulations to Lisa from Scarborough who was the lucky winner in our dehydrator competition.
I hope she enjoys it and gets many year's use from it.
Look out for another competition coming up soon.
You will be automatically entered if you are a registered customer of Lovejars or you can sign up for our newsletter from our facebook page www.facebook.com/lovejarsuk/
I have been very busy with Classes at Jam Central so not much time for making and facebook live filming this week.
We started off last weekend with a visit from a 60th Birthday Party. They were staying locally in some wooden lodges in the grounds of a hotel overlooking Rutland Water. The guests had arrived from all over Europe and had a drinks reception on the first evening, in Oakham Castle.
The next day they were dispersed across the county to shop for the birthday barbeque in the evening. Some went in search for wine, some for meat from the local rare breed farm, some for lovely cheeses and quite a number came to the little Old Smithy to buy preserves as gifts to take home and to eat with the meal.
It was quite a hectic couple of hours but I thought it was a charming and original idea, one I hope I will remember for the future.
We have also held a Professional Day in the week, I always enjoy these days and hearing about everyone's plans for the future.
Yesterday it was a class for would-be home preservers amongst which there was a couple who had been given the class as a Christmas present last year. Seems like we are popular in the celebration market!
I did manage to get a fatless mincemeat made this week, which tastes delicious. It is a variation on the Luxury Mincemeat I make which has a fair amount of butter in it and I have called it Marjorie's Mincemeat. This is because it is based on the deep red Marjorie Plums and it looks gorgeous. I keep being asked for a vegan mincemeat so this is my response - I will get the recipe written up this week and post it for you.
I feel guilty that I have no particular offer for you this week - so how about a discount code for the next week? Just enter CELEBRATE at the checkout for a 10% reduction.